One of Dave Dombrowski’s first moves as Red Sox President of Baseball Operations was trading for established closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel came from San Diego for a slew of prospects. At that point, he was one of the most accomplished closers in baseball, the fastest in major league history to reach 200 saves. It took a year, but we’re starting to see Craig Kimbrel’s dominance that made the trade such a bargain.
Kimbrel’s first season in Boston wasn’t exactly his best. By no means was it bad but the back of his jersey could’ve aptly said “Cardiac Arrest” over his number 46. In his 53 innings of work, he surrendered 30 walks and four home runs and only recorded 31 saves. While that last statistic may not seem bad, he already has 17 saves this season not yet halfway through. Kimbrel’s defining moment of the 2016 season may be when he gave up a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira after the Red Sox had already clinched the division.
This season has been much like a typical Kimbrel one and then some. In a word, he has been dominant. Like ridiculously dominant. He is 17 of 18 in save opportunities and his WHIP is a minuscule 0.49. On top of leading the league in saves, he has struck out an astronomical 53 of the 96 batters he has faced.
Reasonably so with those numbers, he has been a lot more comfortable to watch as a fan. His fastball is once again living in the 97-99 MPH range and he has had no trouble locating his slider of curve ball. It was the lack of breaking ball control last year that attributed to all those walks. Now, however, batters can’t even touch the 29 year-old. Kimbrel’s performance this season is a big reason why the Red Sox have an outstanding record hen leading after seven innings.
Why Was Craig Kimbrel’s Dominance Missing in 2016?
The masterful work of the Red Sox closer this year brings up a lot of questions about his 2016 season. Personally, I don’t think Kimbrel was 100% healthy last year. He missed a few weeks in July with a knee injury but I think it was more than that. He had horrendous location for the first time in his career. Also, you have to take into account where they got him from. He was traded from the Padres, who sent damaged goods over in Drew Pomeranz without telling the Red Sox he was hurt. I think there’s a very real possibility they did the same with Kimbrel.
If Kimbrel can keep up this pace, it will be nothing but great news for the Red Sox. Like having a clutch, dependable kicker in football, having a top-notch closer is essential to a championship team. It changes how you manage late in a game. With the incompetence of John Farrell, a good closer can correct a lot of his mistakes. Honestly, If Kimbrel is half the closer he has been so far, the Red Sox are in good shape. Yes, he’s been that good.